tv Charlie Rose PBS July 22, 2011 12:00am-1:00am PDT
>> rose: welcome to our program, tonight a man at thehe center of america's foreign policy decisions, president obama's national security advisor, tom donilon. >> one of the most important things to bring to this job is a sense of history and to ufrngs is trend. why countries act the way they act and have an appreciation for that. i've also learned just an incredible amount from my predecessors in this job o things like, yes, trends, history, but also on process and management. >> rose: tom donilon for the hour, next.
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>> rose: tom donilon is here. he is president obama's national security advisor on foreign policy and other matters. he's been a key voice on everything from the thdrawal in afghanistan to u.s. relationships with china. the los angeles angels of anaheim has written apart from the firs family there may b no one who spends more time than donilon. as the u.s. faces economic challenges at home and rapid changes abroad with an arab spring, the white houshas made its mission to restore american prestige and influence and power around the world. i'm pleased t have tom donilon at this table for the first time welcome. >> thank you, charlie, great to be here. good to see you. >> rose: there's so much to talk about in limited time. we could spend 30 minutes just talking about your biography and your friendship with warren christopher, the clinton administration, all of that.
you combine policy and politics in earlier careers and now it's the focus of the united states and its relationship with the world. how do you view the mission? because you said you wanted to restore america's credibility, its influence, its respect, and its power. >> well, i think that's exactly right, and that is our core goal at this point. we came into office in 2009 after a difficult period for american foreign policy. there has been for a variety of reasons-- ani'm not making a partisan commentere, just a factual assessment-- there had be a diminution in american prestige and power around the world. we had spent a tremendous amount of american cital on the war in iraq. we had had a financial crisis in 2008 which cost the ited states around the world. and there's a natural dynac that exists as against the leading power in the world. and our focus at the outset was
asking ourself this is question. where are we underweightd? where are we overweightd? we do we need mor intellectual capital, mind share,resence, sours inhe world? and our focus was principally on the economy. as president obama said in his west point speech-- i won't have this exactly right, but the sentiment i think is very important. no country has ever maintained its international primacy without maintaining its economic viability. and so a focus from the outset on the economy and much more emphasis on the recovery and the extraordinary efforts that we took both here and in conjunction with our partners around the world. we felt we were underweighted in asia, as yo mentioned at the outset. we did not think we had the kind of presence in asia, the attention to asia given the economic dynamism and the importance of it to our country. we felt we needed a more targeted and intensified counterterrorism strategy and we went about doing that and the result has been we have really
degraded al qaeda. we judged at the end of twhaen al qaeda was in the worst shaped the been in since 2001. we believe we've taken out half the 30 top leaders in al qaeda. and, of course, our action against bin lan was really a stragic blow. and there are other a number of other places we wanted to acknowledge, including nonproliferation, the president's prague speh. those were the key lines of work th we undertook to build the platform on which we believe that we can restore ameri's credibility. and i think we've done that. >> rose: that's my question, how much have you achieved and what would you point to as an indication of success on any of those points >> if you look at it in terms of the rebalancing and achievement of our goals here, we're going to bring our military action in iraq to an end on december 31, 2011. that's a reduction since president obama has come into
office of 130,000 troops. >> rose: if the iraqi asks us to keep more troops there, what do we do? >> well, we have to see what that discussion looks like. the program of record, if you will, the united states policy at this point-- and we are on track to remove the remaining 47,000 troops from iraq by the end of this year. we'll then engage with iraq in a conversation like we would have with any other coury. trying to normalize our relationship with iraq. in iraq, politics has broken out and they'll have to make requests of the united states, if they will, as to what they think they may need in terms of support and we'll consider those requests. but the principlthrust is to finish the military work in iraq. i think 've regained a tremendousmount of credibility with our allies. starting in asia, i think-- and i'm not prone to hyperbole, you can't be prone to... particularly positive hyperbole and have the job i have eryday given the places that i need go everyday. t i think our relationship
with the koreans, the south koreans i think is in as good a shape as it's ever been. we're going to move forward on a free trade agreement with the korean this is year. >> rose: why is that taking so long? >> well, you know, we came in... well, you know, i don't know... i think the right answer to that question is we're going to get it done this year. and, by the way, it's important economically. it will be the second-largest trade agreement negotiated by the united states since nafta. ve important for jobs. >> rose: but that's the reason, the question why it hasn't been done since it's so important. >> we had to do a couple of things to address it directly, which is that president obama believed it needed improvement, frankly. and we spent the time to do that. and, indeed, we spent past the time. we were actually in korea last november when president obama said it wasn't ready. interestingly enough-- and this is very important-- we built a consensus around trade as a result of some of the improvements and the way we've go about this. we're going to have bipartisan support for the free trade
agreents and i believe we can pass three this year: korea, panama and colombia. >> rose: there's something republicans and democrats want. >> yes, although... you asked the estion earlier, why hadn't it hpened? because we hadn't put together the right elements to it, but do now have that. but that's an important piece of the relationship with korea. it's important strategically for the united states to bin the game economically. we've also stood shoulder-to-should we are the koreans with serious provocations from the north, including the killing of 46 of their sailors in an incident and shelling of islands where civilians were. so that relationship ihink is in good shape. when we came into office there was a discussion in japan about whether or not japan should reorient itself to china. and to push away from the united states. that's not where we are today with japan. prime minister kahn, if he were sitting here with us today, would say the u.s. relationship is critical. and, indeed, i think-- to answer your question directly-- i think a demand signal, if you will,
for leadership in asia is as high now for the united states-- that is the demand for u.s. leadership, lots of reasons for this we can discuss-- is as high as it's been. >> rose: so that's really one of the big questions. >> in europe it's the same thing. >> rose: u.s. leadership. >> yeah. >> rose: what is it you thi they expect from the united states in 2011 and twelve after all that's taken place? the economic collapse that we had. the wars we were engaged in and two that we are still engaged in in different levels. what does the world want from america? >> well, leadersh, i think, is the short answer to the question. but we can start with asia and go to europe and go to the middle east. in asia, they want the ited states to be present. they wanthe united states that ey can count on to meet its obligations anpromises t ales and partners, and we have been doing that. you know, this is a mistake... not mistake. it's not a coincidence that secretary clinton took her first trip as secretary of state to asia. >> rose: and she's back in india
as we speak. since dean rusk in 1961. and we have really engaged... they want u.s. presence. i think the asians want to see the unitedtates engaged and, by the way, they want us to manage the relationship with china in a positive constructive way. >> rose: can the chinese fear that we're... want to be too big a player in the region and looking the secretary speech in vietnam, for example? >> that's a gd questionnd one that's debated in china and i'd answer it this way. the chinese recognize-- and i've spent a lot of time with the leaders of china over the last too and a half years and that's a very interesting article published boy their state counselor and for your viewers who dot have the chinese foreign ministry on their list serve, you can rea about this in the last chapter of henry kissinger's book "on china." a fascinating discussion. >> rose: he's the most prominent person in chinese foreign policy
and he was a participant in the dialogues. >> exactly. so there's a debate in china about this. but i think this is the discussion we have with them. >> rose: okay. >> the united states for over half a century has been a force for security and stability in asia and indeed the platform on which asian prosperity has been built and the chinese know that. and they have been a big beneficiary of that. and if you look atthe joint statements we have put out with the chinese over the last two and a half years and president hu jintao and president obama had nine face-to-face meetings. you'll see a reference to that. they understand that. >> rose: except for the fact that t united states will remain a pacific power. >> it's important to demonstrate we can do that. >> rose: what do we say about their influence in the region? what is it rerecognize on the part of a growing, expanding economically power china. >> it's one of the most prow
found view of strategic events in theoming century. it's happened with incredible speed. when you look at statistics and numbers over the last ten years, the rise of china has happened with incredible speed which is one of the reasons we needed to rebalance and engage in a deeper way. cole points on this. one is engagementnd we engage the chinese on solvingroblems, frankly. >> rose: give me an example of that where the engagement works at it best. >> well, let's art from the beginning of the administration. let's start on april, 2009, when the world faced a profound economic crisis. the united states and china working through the g-20 with other countries really undertook a set of steps charp critical to steming that downturn. we work with the chinese closely on a range of other issues. for example and this is because
they value their relationship. that's a critical point. you engage with another country solving that country's concerns if you value their relationship. so we've worked closely the chinese on the iranian problem. >> rose: are you satisfied with their own commitment to the'reian problem >> we're satisfied they have worked closely with us in puting in pla the most effective and detailed iran has faced. >> rose: have they gone as far as you would like for them to go on that issue in because they get a significant amount iranian oil. >> and they've also abided. the next poi is... they worked with us to put in place the sanctions, and that's an important... very important strategically from our rspective for a t of reasons. we can talk about what would happen if, in fact, iran we permitted to develop a nucle weapon. >> rose: i'll get to that, for su. >> the chinese have abided by the sanctions and have worked with us closely on this.
we press hard on this, charlie, with respect to isolating iran. but with respect to the work we've done together i think it's been ptty good, frankly. with respect to iran. we've worked together on the korean problem. >> rose: north korea. >> north korean problem. so there are a range of things that... now, listen, we have disagreements, right? and engagement is critical. >> rose: what's the bgest disagreement? >> well, there are some... there are some... >> rose: when you go there, what do they say in what do they want to sit down with you and say this is what we're unhappy about? >> the debate in china... get back to the discussion. the debate in china about whether or not the united states is trying to encircle china, ying to stem its rise, right? whether... and... >> rose: this is about the difference in chess and... >> and what chinese reaction should be. now, the current leadership with china, i think correctly, has assessed that a conflict with the uned states not in the interest ochina, a country that is trying to develop itself and indeed is engaged in one of
the great development projects in history and have assessed a positive constructive relationship between the united states and china is in both countries' interests, particularly during times ofhe development period. what do we have conversations about? we have conversations about economic issues we have businesses who want to do business in china, right? and there are a range of issues that businesses in the united states and businesses around the world have with respect to china. on intellectual property right protection. >> rose: are we making progress on human rights, intellectual property, censorship and human.... >> well, that's a different answer to each of those questions. >> okay. because this is... is ts the most important bipartisan relationship united states snaz >> it's a critical relationship to manage for our sake and for the global going into... because we get deep interthis century. but our relationship... we shouldn't push past this. the united states has an asset which sometimes people underestimate and push past in these discussions that's the
alliance relationships which no other country has. this is the base in which we start. our relationship with eure, the relationship, the economic relationship between the united states and europe is still the biest economic relationship? the world. that relationship with our allies around the world, when we see a problem, that's where we start. and there's no other cntry in the world that has that kind of asset, unique asset. >> rose: is there no question in your mind that wherever... whether you're talking about relationships with china, russia alliances with europe and other aces that there isn understanding of america's purpose, america's commitment and america's strategic sdplex >> well, let's go through those, right? i think that president obama has indeed, put... is undertaking a change in our position in the world and our face to the world.
>> rose: so he's explaining a different america. so the question is what is the different america he sees? >> well, it is first of all an american that leads, right? that understands how to do that through the kind of lines of work that i talked about, working with other countries to solve problems. it is an america that leads. and american leadership has been critical. we had this declinist debate in this country. i don't think the united states... >> rose:hat do you say tothe america in decline because of the rise of china? >> do you know another nation in the world that would trade places in the united states? our ability to protect power, our innovation, our demography, our alliance relationships? >> rose: our universities. >> our universities, the fact that, yes, you saw a pew pole inditing there a recognition of china's rise and that's indisputable, still looking for american leadership and a positive view of the united states. the view of the united states around the world has arisen. not anywhere and i can talk
about why in some places. but the view of u.s. leadership in the world has risen in terms of a positive view of it and approv of that. and our presence dramatically, charlie, since president obama came into office... now, i know that's a... an end.. kind of an imprecise measure. but it reflects, i think, the style of leadership that president obama has asserted around the world. >> re: i've heard this in different places but specifically about you that you took note of someone saying that the chinese were pleased that we were engaged in ghanistan, engad in iraq and had a certain footprint in the middle east becse they felt we re distracted and could not be as competitive with them as we might be. >> well i don't know that i'v ever said that. >> rose: well, you've heard it it's been pressed by even the chinese. >> i guess what i'd say is this. we're going act in a way that's in our interest.
as i said, charlie, at the outset, we assessed as early as the transition in the campaign that we were underweighted in terms of our engagement in asia and we set about correcting that so that i n't think today as you and i sit here there's any doubt in asia about the united states engagement and commitment, the united states ability to meet its obligations to its partners and allies in asia and about the united states's serious engagement in problems like the north korean nuclear problem. and while the countries in asia want to see us do all that and work with them, they also want to see us manage the chinese relationship in a productive and constructive way. that's a burden put on us. it's a multidimensional set of challenges for us in asia. a multidimensional set of obligaons. >> rose: let me come to the arab spring which is an important new question for this government and governments around the world. let me focus first on syria. we recognize clearly that
assad... you tell me. what's the position of this government today, today, on the future of bashar assad >> well, that will be up to the syrian people but i can me these observations and, again, we can talk about the arab spring.. >> rose: would you like to see regime change in syria? >> i think what we'd like to see is this. we'd like to see a couple things. first of all, assad has made terrible decisio in resorting to, if you will, the autocrat's play book: violee, repression, having a national political dialogue but not really. extending all your ergy on saving your regime and not listening to your people. looking to... in this case to an ally... their ally like the iranians who are helping them quite directly in terms of putting down their people. he's made terrible decisions. and we oppose, obviously, as a matter of policy and principle and strong view and we've
articulated this and have pressed on this his use of violence and repression on his people. what's happened as a result is that it's spreading. if you and i sat here and put a map of syria on the table over the last 20 something weeks, all right, and we had a dot or a star where there had been a protest, we would see it spreading around theountry. and that's going to be the natural result of this. our position is this: the violence and repression should stop. litical prisoners shod be released and there should be a real movement to transition. he's lost legitimacy. he's lost legitimacy because he has attacked his own people. because he has not engaged in a legitimate transition here. and thiss not heading to a good place. >> rose: and what are we r we preprepared to do? >> we're prepared to state our positions, isolate this regime, put pssure on it. we'vhad two executive orders put in place of sanctions
targeted on the... particurly on the assad group and the group around him. he is taking his count sbri a place of isolation economically, rapid decline in their economics. not clear, by the way, they can continue to back the syrian pound. he's been forced into this alliance with the iranians. you're going ask me why ts is different from libya. >> rose: well, i'm going to get to that later. and how it's different bahrain and other places. let me stay with this idea. if he falls what happens? what influence... difference does it make to the united states? >> well, what difference it would make to the united states is obviously if there was a peaceful transition and a coalition of groups came forward an opposition came forward working with each other to put together a transition to a responsive and non-repressive government, that would be a positive thing for the united states. interesting there is the opposition is beginning to kohl together. very difficult for oppositions
to arise these places and it's really been amazing if you think about it. in libya, for example, the opposition, the t.n.c., has come together in a place-- and i've reflected on this-- where for 40 years there was no civil society. qaddafi and his crowd crushed everybody. >> rose: it was a tribal nation. >> b they've come together and presented themselves to e world. syria, we'd like to see the same thg, an opposition come together. they he a meeting outside syria and in istanbul last week that president erdogan and the turks-- the turks--osted. >> rose: right. are the turk having any influence? they have been sharply critical of assad even though there was a go relationship between syria and assad told me he much admired erdogan. >> i think t syrians have really hurt their relationship with turkey and this has forced them to turn to the iranians. >> rose: this is an interesting way where american foreign policy has come and you said probably so that there is a closer working coordination with
people like turkey in order to bring together more forces to pipl pin j on the critical situation. >> rose: absolutely. not through u.n. but through relationship. >> it has to be through all of the above. therare tuations where the united states interest is sufficiently imp katded where we will act unilaterally. osama bin laden and al qaeda killed over 3,0 people down the street fromere. when we got well into jens, the best intelligence we've gotten since tora bora that he was in abbottabad pakistan, we acted yuan laal ratly and took h out and appropriately so. we do work through the united nations in a variety of places in order, like on the sanctions regimes, on iran and north korea. but we have, as i said at the outset, really undertake aggressively... you know, the first triple trip obama... president obama tk outside the united states was in april, 2009 was to europe for a set of sum
rk teixeiras and then to turkey. and understanding that these rising powers, these relationships are important for problem solving, particularly in a place like the middle east. we have had disagreements with the turks over the last three years. >> rose: what are those disagreements? >> we had a disagreement with the turks over tactics around the iranian sanctions resolution. and they thought... >> rose: this is turkey and brazil together because of their response? >> yes. and we... >> rose: they thought they were doing your bidding, you understand that? >> i understand a lot about it. and... but, in fact, we share the same goal and we have been working very closely with the turks on a range of issues. and i can give you a list. government formation in iraq. absolutely critical. at the lisbon summit last november we came to an agreement among all the alliesn the way forward in afghanistan. we've been working with them
them on missile defense. working with them on economic issues. so there are a range of issues that we've been working with and it is an important and president oba and prime minister erdogan have forge add pretty good relationship. >> rose: do people in turkey worry there isoo much... you know the argument a they worry that the's too much islamist influence in turkey. do you worry about that? >> well, the turkish people have to make, obviously, a set of decisions here in how they go forward. and i think real thing to focus on there is the robtness, the continued robustness and vitality of the democracy. >> rose: in turkey? >> and that's an important thing to us... >> rose: secretary clinton pointed out... (inaudible). >> i think that was something... it was important to keep an eye, it was important for it to remain a robust and vital democracy and one that protects human rights and journalists rights and secretary clinton spoke that. but i will tell you-- and, again
i'm not a... again, i'm not a... prone to overly positive statements about things given my job. we've had a productive relationship with the turks and they are an important player, a hinge player, if you will. >> rose: to the muslim world in and to the region? >> in that pt of theorld. and they he a... you know, a strong prime minister. a ry active a creative foreign minister and we have found many things to work on together with them, frankly. including, by the way, going all the way back to the beginning, syria. and the syrians have really, i think, as i said, hurt themselves very badly. >> rose: can you do anything to bridge the fissure in the relationship with israel? between turkey and israel? >> well, we've been engaged in helping on that wh asked and engaged and doing everything we can to do that. we'd like to see that. >> rose: is it getting better,
in your judgment? >> you know, i don't... i can't... i don't want to speak for either of these parties. but you know what i will say about this? given all the tu nut the region, given all of the profound change in the region, whether it's the ottoman empire, decolonialization ter world war ii. >> rose: 19. >> a lot of change. and it would be in our judent a very good thing for two very responsible countries, one a nato ally in the united states, turkey. and thother as close a ptner and ally as we have in the world israel to come together and bridge these differences and be a force for common sense, stability and good values in the region. >> rose: define-- because as you know, there was great controversy when the prime minister of isrl, benjamin
netanyahu, cam here. what he today the president, what was said to jewh american organizations. where does that relationship stand in your judgment? >> we've put a tremendous amount of energy into the middle east peace process and in the middle east generally. we have not bee able to bridge the differences, charlie, between palestinians and the israelis on the peace issues to date. >> rose: do we have a plan? >> well, we do have a plan and in may the president set out a set of parameters which conform the basis of a middle east peace negotiation between the parties and we have been working with both the parties to try to bridge that as an alternative to the palestinian thority coming unilaterally to the united nations in september. on the relationship directly to your question. we obviously are going to have disagreements on political issues with allies and friends given the complexity of these relationships but i will tell
you this, and this is now in my lane, in my bailiwick. on the security relationship, it's as close as it's ever been. dennis ross, whom you know, rks with us on my staff, has for many years, he worked on the first stratic dialogue between the united states and israel in the early '80s in the reagan administration and his observation is it was as close today and deeper than it's ever been. >> rose: on the security level. >> on security. bob gates, my colleague who's now left to go smoke a cigar and write a couple of books, wre, out in the west. but he who was a wonderful colleague for us in the administration, he will tell you that in terms of our support for them on security he doesn't think it's ever been stronger. and that really is a fundamental shared interest that we have. >> rose: but you know on the perception on the relationship because of the settlements issue
early on in your administration caused a lot of controversy. >> yeah. >> and there are those who say today unless there's some peace process in september, there will be a vote in the united nations for palestinian statehood. the only thing stopped that would be some kind of relationship... the beginning of negotiations in a satisfactory way. >> agree and i tnk you... that's exactly what the president was doing? may. he gave two speechesn may. he gave a speech at the state department on the middle east writ large including about the peace process and he laid out, as i said, an alternative here and basis on which a negotiation can begin. he then went to aipac, the americanewish organization on the sunday after that. before we left for europe and he talked quite directly about why we're pursuing this and why it was in israel's overwhelming long-term interest and security
interesto get to a negotiation here. to not stay... to get on a sustainable path to peace and security which is why we're doing this. it's out of a relationship. >> rose: and this administration as all previous administrations, have pledged themselves to israeli security. >> yeah. >> rose: hat the same time there were people who thought that the prime minister had lectured the president with respect to the president's question about the '67 borders. do you feel that way? was that o of line? >> well, i... as i said earlier, we're going to have disagreements between friends that have this kind of complex and multifaceted relationship i feel this way about this. thedministration's pledge to protect israel's security and theyave for a long time, we actually act on this and have acted in very substantial ways. last year, for example, there were 200 d.o.d. high-level
visitors to israel from the united states i want to g to your question on the statements made ithe oval office when prime minist netanyahu was visiting with president obama. and president obama addressed this quite directly. there is a lot in his proposals for israelis including, by the way, a correct assessment or parsing or representation of what he said about where to start, which is that a basis it would be '67 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps. he wasn't dictate ago line. so there was... there may have been misunderstanding back and forth. i think we understand each other quite well. >> rose: so you think the prime minister was doing was primarily for his own domestic consumption? >> i don't know the answer to that question. i can just tell you we are today right? and that really is... i don't have a lot of time to admire problems or look backwards, right? i have to deal with... i have to deal with addressing problems and that's what we're doing. >> rose: here's one thing you
have done, i'm told by people who know y. you have as national security advisor taken time to look at history with about things like revolutions in the form of the arab spring to see what the lessons are. to see what the guidelines ar that you he in a sense taken on your responsibility to say what does history teach us? >> absolutely. i think that one of the most important things to bring to thisob is a sense o history and to understand the trend in dynamics, why countries act the way they act and have an appreciation for that. ve also learned an incredible amount on things like trends, histories and process and management. the system that i've put togeth at the white house,
national security council, is modeled on theystem that brent scowcroft and bob gates put together from bush 41. >> rose: both national security advisors. >> there's a lot to be learned from former colleagues. there's a humility in this job that's very important and i think it's important to have a en appreciation of history and understand motivations and historical roots of things. >> rose: the other thing you don't have, which has been true in some instances, there's no conflict between the national security advisor-- you-- and the secretary of state. that has been part of the history of american foreign policy. secretaries of state in conflict with national security advisors. >> it can be very debilitating. >> rose: you and secretary clinton are on the same page? >> we are on the same page. we've known each other for a long te and we run a process. i speak to secretary clinton everyday, sometime miss times a day. we run a process near has a
number of rules that we've kind of laid out or procedures and processes which may sound mundane to your viewers but are very important, including this is the exclusive process, there's not going to be any end runs. >> rose: we're all on the same page. >> you don't have to be on the same page but you have to come to the same table. >> rose: once the president decides you have to be. >> yes. and there's a lot of accountability. i take on the responsibility that make t president understands where each of the principals are coming from and this is quite a group, charlie. so picturing yourself carrying these meetings. >> rose: which you do. >> yes. the team that president obama selected really a group of amazing americans, right? you'll sit here and you'll look here and there have been vice president joe biden and secretary gates and panetta and if it's about afghanistan david petraeus and secretary clinton. it's quite a. >> rose: hav youhang the process in. >> yes, i think we have changed
the process. i think that, again, it's the excluse process. everybody agrees it is. we've fully integrated, by the way, the vice presidential national security staff and the presidential national security staff so we don't conflicts there. the same people advise the president on iraq, for example, advise the vice president. we've committed, as i said, to have a view get to the president in a timely way. we've committed to have... if we have a mting today, within 24 hours the results of that eting are circulate to the principals. i meet once aeek for lunch with the secretary of defense and the secretary of state. so there's quite a bit of integration. >> rose: tell me what best in your background prepared you for. >> oh, i don't know. a deep interest. i've been working on foreign policy issues for, you know, almost two decades. >> rose: there's an interesting story about you that wren christopher, the late warren christopher, who was secretary of state for bill clinton in the
first term aed you or suggested you read dean acheson about the creation. >> yes. >> rose: and you did. and what did he expect you to learn from that? >> well, it was one of the most important conversations of my life. as you alludeded to, i came into policy... present at the creation. came into washington through politics. i started as a 22-year-old aide to president carter in the carter white house. this is third president i've served in the... in the white house. third president i've served. and i... after the carter administration i went to law schoolt the university of virginia. i met warren christopher when he was deputy secretary of state during the... >> rose: you went toaw school because you wanted to be a lawyer or because you thought that that kind of education would put you in a different place, more of a poly place than politics would? >> i always wanted to... no, not at that point. i always wanted to go to law school and, indeed, was
intending go through the carter years. i went to georgia with president carter to do his transition to private life and went to the univerty of virginia. got towardthe end of my tenure at the university of virginia and warren christopher was a really incredible guy and a great nurturer of talent. and he was a mentor to so so many people and he kind of latched on to me. the youngest person in the carter white house and i had a lot of conversations with him during that period. he stayed in touch while i was at law school. had lunch with him. and he said "re's the deal. this is a long time ago. this would have been' 8, '84. and he said "you could probably go and do politics and have a very good life and make a pretty good living but i dot think at the end of t day it will be as fulfilling as the other option you have which is to go to a law firm, get into substance, really practice law and use it as a platform from which yocan do public service. d he said there are examples
of this and he talked about himself and dean acheson, jim baker is a good example. and he said "read this book." and he gave me the book and it changed myife. >> rose: because you admired the life that dean acheson had and the way he described his lif and the challenges he faced and what was interesting about his life? >> absolutely. >> rose: here's a criticism of you. >> okay. >> rose: it is that... >> only one. >> rose: i have several. but nothingly say to you have you not heard before. one is that he is... has been a political person and he still has the capacity to see these issues through a political prism and make judgments having to do with the political ramifications what the political ramifications will be. >> that's not my job and i don't engage in political analysis or political discussions at the white house. i certainly understand politics. i understand the politics of
other countries. i think that's a use thing, by the way, to have a background in. most othe people that we deal with around the world are political people. and parliamentary systems. and it's important i think, to have that ground but that's not my job and i don't have time for it and i have a focus on proding polici, good decisions to protecting the country everyday. >> rose: you're close to the president. what do you think beyond a common purpose has madeyou two so close. >> well, i read the same los angeles anls of anaheim article that you referenced earlier in our conversation. and so i don't want to claim any special closeness. the president has a lot of close friends and he has people he's known a lot longer than me. my function, though, at the
white house is such that i do spend time with with the president. i lead the president's national security briefing every morning and have done so about 450 times. >> rose: you've been in the room for every single policy decision. >> from the beginning. so we have spent years together now working. but he's also... i think that's overstated. he's very close to the secretary of state. he's very close to bob gates who's advice he really, really valued. they didn't really know each other. >> rose: i guess that kind of advice will continue, relationships like that don't end because someone is no longer in an office across the river. libya. e we demanding that qaddafi leave the country or are we... like the french now urging the rebels to negotiate with him and he would be allowed if they so agree to stay in the country? >> we haven't anged our position. this is up to the negotiation of the living people. >> rose: if they negotiate and say it's okay for us if he stays, n pblem.
>> there are two or three things prior to that we need to lay out here i think. one is that he needs to step down from power and that's a condition to a cease-fire because if you let up that pressure prior to his stepping down from power, he won't. now, where he goes in terms of an exile after he steps down from power, that's something for the libyan people to work through. >> rose: as long as he steps down from power it's okay with the united states if he stays in libya? >> that's up to the libyan people and we'll have to establish an interim government. we took a big step last friday. we recognized the t.n.c., the opposition group, as provisional... >> rose: and freed up billions of dollars. >> we're working through that through, as a legitimate vernment of libya. it'snteresting. this is... this has gone, i think, ptty wel fnkly we set out t try to protect
citizens and civilians so 700,000 citizens in a wn in eastern libya on the coast called benghazi that was being threatened by qaddafi. >> the core of the resistance movement at the time. >> exactly. there was a history collective punishment. and the president decided that we couldct. that the contions were there for us to act effectively militaryly. we could do it with legitimacy, a u.n. resolution and the support of nay toshgs the arab league. we could do it with a real support from the t arabs, not just rhetoril support. we had a good division of labor that we could put in place that we would do the initial work that we could do uniquely and the others would follow on to carry on the other work, the ongoing work. and we had a group that's come together, the t.n.c., which has really performed pretty well,
qaddafi's losing territory. there's squeeze on. there's an embargo. >> rose: how long can he survive? >> i don't know the answer to that. >> rose: is it a stalemate? >> i don't think it's a stalemate because i think he ntinues to lose ground and be pressured and he has smaller and smaller parts of the country he controls. >> rose: it's inevitable he will be gone? >> i think so. >> rose: okay. you went to saudi arabia. the president sent you there. i assume with a letter for the king. >> yes. >> rose: where does that relationship stand? >> we discussed earlier there was a tremendous amoun of change and tumult that erupted in the middle east after the eventsn tunisia in january of this year and it led to the downfall of president mubarak who had been a a fixture in the middle east. >> rose: his military was close to our military. >> that military-to-military relationship i think was critical. we... a lot of engagement with them about their protecting the statemen about their not engaging in violence and they
really, i think, did an admirable job of working through the beginnings of this process. we had a scratchy period with saudi arabia over this because there was a tremendous amount of change but as it developed... >> it's said the king was very upset over the way we had treated mubarak. and they thought mubarak deserved better. correct? >> well, let me finish. as it evolved, though, it became clear in really one of the essential pieces of analysis out of the arab spring, this was indigenous, this was not brought on by the united states, this was not brought on by iran. it was indigenous. these are trends that have been under way for a long period of time. zbigniewrzezinski wrote an article called "globa awakening." there had been unsmonsive governments here. communication systems that allowed people that allowed
peop to communicate in their country and it exploded into simultaneous contemporaneous revolutions. and i think saudi arabia analysis... we talked a lot about this, what was going on, what the causes were and i think it became clear that in fact this was not caused by the unit states. nonetheless this was a critical relationship so i did visit with king abdullah. >> rose: and what came out of that? >> i think what came out of it is this. we went through an analysis of at's happened in the arab world but the most important thing we did, charlie, was to revisit someing which habitat core of the u.s./saudi relationship for seven decades and this is a shared interest. countries have relationships and alliances and partnerships because they share interests, they share fundamentals. and the purpose of my discussions there was to refocus the relationship on the fundamentals and we have a tremendous number of shared...
really fundamental interests with the saudis including a healthy world economy, including not seeing any other country or force dominate in the region. >> rose: did you encourage them stay out of bahrain? >> well, i think in bahrain each of these... we have t go through each of these carefully, right? in bahrain what we have encouraged is a political dialogue, right? >> rose: between the shi'a and the... >> between the shi'a group a the... and king hamad's government, right? and they he started that. there will be some bumps in this. that's what we encouraged and we've been working with the sais to encourage that. the saudis are ry concerned about bahrain, though, and with some reason. it's on their border. they did not want to see... because this is a mixed ethnic... mixed country. >> rose: they didn't want to see sectarian strife. >> exactly and the iranians would look to ke advantage of that. so there were real concerns here
but the way forward on that and the way to confront iranian interests in seeing disruption in bahrain was a political process and we've been pushing them in that... >> rose: to encourage a political process. >> exactly, right. and to work through essentially what... the crown prince were fear bahrain i think what he'd tell you, to really work through our political issues but basically civil rights sues. about which there needs to be a dialogue and there needs to be improvement. >> rose: finally pakistan. where is the relationship today? >> well, on the trust issue and the not telling, this was about operational... i'm going address that and then i'll come back. it's important. this is about operational security. we operated in our own government in the tightest possible circle over this. we had 24 interagency meetings from augusof 2010 through the operation in the beginning of may. we didn't tell anybody outside
our government why. if i leaked it was our judgment he woufk gone. if it leaked he would have increasedhe danger the rces that went in and d the raid and that wasn't something we were going to risk, charlie. a and i've said that to general kayani directly. >> rose: does he feel betrayd? >> i think they saw it as an imfringement of their sovereignty and are embarrassed about it but at the end of the day osama bin laden was an enemy of the pakistani people as well as the american people. at the end of the day his downfall is a plus for both. we understood, by the way, when we made the decision, when the president made the decision in a... as i said i've worked for three presidents, this is a quintessentially presidential decision. it would be a longer scussion than we can have about w the decision came about and how the president made the decision knowing all the aspects of it including, by the way, the aspect you're asking about which
is the impact on the pakistani relationship. we took that into account and knew it had to be naged. sot's not unexpected that there would be fallout. so it's a complicated, complex animportant relationship. there are frustrations but it's also important wk we do together and, again, our job in the national security team at the direct of the president is to address our national interests. so here's... go through it. walking away from this relationship is not an option. do we need to have contingent... would it bein our national interest to have continued counterterrorism operations with the pakistanis? absolutely. so we'll work on that. would it be with our interest to work with the pakistanis on their economic stabilizations? yes, a failed state in pakistan would not be in the united states interest. is hit in the international interest to have continued nil-nil relations particularly with the pakistani military?
that's a complicated piece of business on that border up there. absolutely. so that's what we do. we undertake... understanding with our eyes whid open some of the complexities. we understand the frustrations and disappoints we're going to have but our job is to pursue the naonal interest and i think to date to summarize it's at the end of ts first term presidenobama has ended the wain iraq and has us on the... ending our... the war in afghanistan and pushin towards a stable situation if we have pushed al qaeda further on stragic defeats, is if we've been able to focus tightly and improve the global economic situation and started to focus on, as i said, some of the real top priorities we need f the future and we have an increased american... a respect and admiration in the world it would have been a pretty good first
term. >> rose: you've had interesting things to say about the arab spring. >> al qaeda, charlie, we have been as i said at the outset undertook an effort to accelerate and intensify our efforts against al qaeda and i think it's had a big effect. but the arab spring is also a challenge to al qaeda. it's a challenge to its narrative. and it shows it to be a wholly negative movement. a movement focused solely on violence against government entities and others. there's nothing positive or hopeful about it. the people who went to tahrir square to protest in egypt did not put suicide vests on, as has been noted, right? they wenin to seek a better life. >> and dignity. >> and economic future. this has been a wholly negative
set evelopments for alaeda broadly. now, they all try to take advantage in individual places ere you have chaos. but at the end of the day it mainalizes. >> rose: i thank you for coming. i hope you'll come back to this table and talk more about these kinds of issues. we've touched on many things. i thank you for taking this time to help us understand where america is and where it wants to be. >> all right. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org